“Screwing banks since 1992″: Indiana Lawyer Suspended Over Unprofessional Advertisements

I have previously written about how some attorneys continue to ignore bar standards encouraging firms to show basic professionalism and decorum in advertising from using sex dolls to raving like madmen. Now, an Indiana bankruptcy lawyer Brent Welke of Indianapolis has been suspended for 30 days in a rare sanction for improper advertising. Welke ran ads that said he has been “screwing banks since 1992.”

While we all agree that there is a free speech right to advertise and the vast majority of lawyers show great restraint in deference to the standards of our profession, there remain low lying fruit like Welke. Welke will remove ads proclaiming that he loves “screwing banks” as well as such statements as “Keep your property”, “Stop wage garnishments”, “Stop home foreclosure” and “Stop vehicle repossession.”

Welke’s current website and Facebook show a vicious dog and his Facebook proclaims “We love to take a bite out of a banker!”

Unfortunately, such sanctions remain relatively rare as a minority of lawyers engage in a race to the bottom with undignified and often misleading advertisements. Such attorneys appear to have little grounding in the either the ethics or values of this profession. His website says “Brent worked his way through law school developing the qualities you look for in an attorney, receiving his Law Degree from Indiana University, Bloomington.” That is certainly a shout out that Indiana University could probably do without.

Here is the order: Welke Decision

40 thoughts on ““Screwing banks since 1992″: Indiana Lawyer Suspended Over Unprofessional Advertisements”

  1. Without defending the ethics of what Welke did, it would be interesting to see who made the complaint to the Bar. Was it a bank looking to take down a successful adversary?

  2. For all of you who mistakenly believe that only the bottom of-the-barrel attorneys and/or ambulance chasers avail themselves to the various opportunities to advertise in the media, think again. News flash–the silk-stocking firms, whose members often hold seats on various bar committees–yes, including the ethics committee–are now humbling themselves, to an extent, and engaging in that putrid, undignified and proletariat activity–advertising–and they’ve been doing so for quite some time now. And, why, you may ask? Because they, the movers and the shakers in the legal field, have to in order to survive in the very competitive market of law. Yep, it’s extremely competitive, even at the top tiers of the law, where firms are vying for some of the same clients. The only real and substantial difference is that these large and prestigious firms have the resources and money needed to outsource the task of presenting their wares to major ad and PR agencies, so the resulting ads are slick, refined and don’t contain guys in chicken suits. No, the ads belonging to those law firms, housed in gleaming skyscrapers, don’t include some guy trapped in a chicken suit, flapping his wings and screaming about fighting for the little guy or anything about “screwing” the banks–especially not the last part. After all, why would they? Those banks are their clients, and those banks–through the massive legal fees that they generate and, ultimately, fork over, pay for those enormous rents, salaries and perks. The major firms represent the various banking institutions, and, at the very same time, partners and associates, from those very same firms, hold an array of positions on bar committees, including the ethics committee. Perhaps, just perhaps, it begins to answer the question as to why this particular ad, about screwing banks, seemed to inflame the ole boys on the ethics committee to such an extent that it resulted in this schlub losing his license for thirty days? Was his ad crass? Unprofessional? Crude? Tasteless? Check, check, check and check. Should he have been given a reprimand, as opposed to a suspension? In my humble opinion, yes, UNLESS, of course, he has a history before the committee and has ignored prior warnings. My opinion–this ad, about “screwing” banks, hit a nerve with these guys wielding the power to maintain certain bar standards, and it’s called the “don’t make disparaging remarks about my clients” nerve.

  3. A new lawyer without clients goes to his his school pals and gets his name out. He goes to the bars and chums. He goes to the cathouses and meets cats. He can take court appointments for indigent criminal defendants in some states. He can work for a law firm and earn a reputation and then “go out on his own” as a solo practitioner. He can make a name for himself by winning cases and making the news. He can have other people, other lawyers who do not like jury trials, recommend him. If he is a she, its all the same. Except a good looking female lawyer might have an easier time of yakking her way around town.
    “Never work for anybody else!” That was my dad’s admonition. A lawyer can be solo. One does not need a partner. One needs an office. Office sharing is one thing you can do but not be a partner money wise or decision wise with other lawyers on actual cases. Share the rent, the secretarial expense and the copy machine. An “office suite”. Never advertise. It puts you in the same catagory as the morons who cannot spull “Your Honor”.

    1. BarkinDog – every other business gets to advertise, why not lawyers? I think lawyers should be able to advertise any way they want.

    2. BarkinDog: Very well-stated, and I agree that it’s how things should be, but that’s not how it is in the larger metropolitan areas.

      Advertising is like a baseball player on steroids. A player with 50 homers per year using steroids gets the big bucks which makes him a superplayer in the public eye. Without steroids, he’s just another player while others are stabbing a needle in their butts and in a sense stealing quantifiable contract money. If one doesn’t advertise in some form, there’s little hope of survival as a solo unless one has some serious but limited and difficult to obtain, networking avenues.

      To my mind, there’s nothing worse than the failing of a choreographed smiling attorney pausing from deep immersion in his statute book to glance up and have his photo snapped for a full-page spread in the Yellow Pages.

      Here, the rules of professional responsibility prohibit a quid pro quo in referrals, but that has never stopped anyone from attending business breakfast clubs where one member pitches for the other. I don’t think the State Bar knows how to handle advertising in its rules, frankly, other than for blatant violations like advertising on buses, for example. But they have the rules, and if they want you bad enough, they can get you with them.

      And I’ve noticed many of the old-money medium and large firms advertising ad nauseum using subtle, name-recognition techniques in print, television, and radio.

      But I absolutely agree that advertising has ruined the profession by requiring it to be managed under a business model. The desire to help people has been replaced by the need to pay for advertising to survive.

  4. The legal profession is governed by the respective state bar governance in each state. Some have state bar associations which are required to join. Some states require an applicant to be a lawyer to have graduated from an accredited law school. One has to pass an exam. One has to pass a background scrutiny.
    But when one is a lawyer with a license some states are good at watching over and some are terrible.
    The lawyer advertising thing is the worse thing to happen and has brought the profession to a low ebb.
    Lawyers should acquire business, new clients, based on reputation. Ads are horseshit. Those who run ads are shit heads. Censor that!

    1. BarkinDog – if you are a new lawyer w/o clients how do you get clients?

  5. To paraphrase Prof Turley and others, the best remedy for speech that you don’t like is more speech. The Bar could publicly mention his speech as speech that they believe to be demeaning to the profession, without taking disciplinary action. If that is the worst thing he is doing, he does not deserved to be disciplined. Criticism of his ads, however, is fair game.

    Otherwise, next thing you know, the UK won’t let him in their country either.

    1. In California, my feeling is that such conduct might get non-public reproval and an order to re-suffer the MPRE (multi-state professional responsibility examination) as a don’t-do-it-again-or-else slap of the wrist.

      Of course there are perhaps more attorneys in a medium-sized city in this state than there are In the entire state of Indiana, so the effect of such conduct is as great here.

      There, it might affect on a grander scale the entire legal community’s reputation. I went to law school in a small state, and veteran lawyers and their proteges didn’t take kindly to blowhards in the profession.

      Another thought is that perhaps this was not the first time the fellow had been in front of an ethics committee there.

  6. The legal profession in America has sunk too low. It is much ado about advertising. The lowest turd in the sea can float up on an ad and attract clients. Never hire a lawyer who resorts to ads. Or who you meet at the resort.

  7. Paul

    A frog may not have wings and therefore bumps its butt every time it jumps, but a frog’s a** is water tight; kinda like that of a lawyer.

  8. I fully understand the need to maintain some semblance of professionalism with regard to advertising within the field, and there is no doubt that lawyers are put on notice regarding these very open-ended and fuzzy restrictions pertaining to professionalism in advertising. I question, however, the severity of the punishment imposed on this particular individual, given this particular situation–the 30-day suspension. The available remedies, I suspect, include a range of punishment where one could either be disbarred, suspended or reprimanded. QUESTION: wouldn’t a simple reprimand, where this individual is admonished to clean up his act and, perhaps, pay a fine, suffice, OR, has this guy been called on the carpet before for similar problems? Maybe that would explain the bar’s decision to suspend his license for a 30-day period. Yeah, and maybe, like Tin, @12:51 am, the good ole boys club, who comprise the hallowed ethics committee, didn’t take kindly to some fat, low-life, from the wrong side of the tracks, sullying-up their profession. After all, they looked into his background and were appalled–appalled, I tell you–to discover that his parents were poor, that he worked his way through law school and that no one remembered him from his alma mater. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! The humanity! We all know how relevant that is, don’t we? It’s not that I oppose the bar trying to maintain some standards by which its members must operate, it’s that JUSTICE appears to be meted out so unfairly by an ethics committee incapable of judging each particular case on its own merits and uninfluenced by the lawyer’s wealth, popularity or standing in the community.

  9. Banks, and their lobby of free market blatherers, promote privatization of profits, and socialization of risks. THat is why when they got their tit in the wringer and even the Federal Reserves’ printing presses were not enough, they went to the taxpayer., Remember the TARP? They are despicable social parasites that make lawyers look like angels.

  10. Advertising is how poor people learn about who is there to help them. Corporate lawyers don’t need advertising they have martindale hubble and a huge network of established firms to choose from and tons of their own in house lawyer information to help identify the lawyer-mercenaries who deliver the bang for the buck

    Lawyer advertising is often distasteful but in this society why should lawyers be the only group that can’t advertise. Are lawyers that much the slaves of the state that they don’t even have the rights they supposedly defend for others? Pathetic.

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